Alternate Version: PDF version (12 pages, 122 KB) 2016-0275-guide_cascadediagram-eng.pdf
OBJECTIVE: TO EXPLORE PLAUSIBLE FUTURE IMPLICATIONS OF A CHANGE DRIVER
This exercise explores the sources of a change driver and its potential consequences. It is similar to the one conducted in module 3, in which participants explored future consequences of a weak signal. For a large meeting, it is suitable as a breakout session in small groups.
- 1 facilitator
- 5-8 participants
- 1 recorder (optional)
- Notepad for each participant
- Computer with access to mindmapping software (optional)
Post on the wall:
- A visual agenda (optional)
- Rules of engagement (optional)
- 2 headings on sticky notes (optional): What worked? What could be better?
- A room with a large writeable wall, a large roll of paper on the wall, computer screen, or flip chart sheets arranged adjacently.
- Seating for all conducive to hearing other participants, seeing the cascade diagram and recording personal notes.
|5 MIN||1. General meeting instructions (if needed)|
2. Give context for the cascade diagram exercise (2 minutes)
7. Discuss most impactful and surprising outcomes (10 minutes)
|10 MIN||8. Reflect on and/or evaluate the exercise|
EST. TOTAL TIME: 85 minutes
BEFORE THE MEETING: CHOOSE A CHANGE DRIVER
At any stage of the scanning and foresight process, a cascade diagram exercise is a valuable brainstorming tool to deepen understanding of a potentially disruptive change. In this exercise, a cascade diagram is used to explore the plausible consequences of a change driver. The process is similar to the cascade diagram exercise for a weak signal. A key difference, however, is that a weak signal does not need a lot of evidence in order to justify exploring it through a cascade diagram. In contrast, by the time the group is considering a change driver, the group (or someone in it) should have established evidence that the change is occurring or will occur in 10-15 years. (For example, see some of the change driver descriptions that Horizons used for the Future of Asia study).
This means that the group should have generated and thoughtfully considered change drivers in advance of the cascade diagram session rather than identifying a change driver on the spot.
The facilitator may also want to do a test run diagram with the change driver that will be used. This can help the facilitator anticipate possible twists in the conversation and identify key questions to explore with the group.
Prepare the room
- A cascade diagram is intended to be displayed for participants while it is being developed, and it requires a lot of space. A large whiteboard or write-erase walls are ideal; however, a large roll of paper on the wall or several flip charts together would also work. Alternatives to writing on a wall surface include using an online mind-mapping tool such as Mind42.com and displaying it on a large screen as it is developed, and taking notes on large sticky notes and pasting them in the shape of a cascade diagram. These alternatives are discussed at the end of the annotated agenda.
- Set up the room for a small group discussion, with a chair and writing surface for each participant. Have pens and scrap paper on hand for participants.
- Post on the wall any visuals that will be referred to during the meeting.
|5 min||1. General meeting introductions (if needed)
|2 min||2. Give context for the cascade diagram exercise
3. Provide activity instructions
|15 min||4. Ensure the group has a shared understanding of the change driver
Explore first-order consequences
Alternative: The facilitator can present questions in the form of an impromptu guided imaging exercise based on initial discussion (see Option A further in this document), or the facilitator can write a guided imaging exercise in advance using their knowledge of the change driver. The facilitator would ask participants to close their eyes, project themselves 15 years into the future and envision how the continuation of the change driver has changed the Canada/the world/a particular system.
This is a helpful way to break away from discussion of the present (what is) and shift the discussion into a more imaginative space (what could be). A guided imaging exercise might add an additional 5–10 minutes to the agenda. However, this will help catalyze the discussion, and the cascade diagram will move faster. Participants may start building on each other’s ideas, with little need for questions as prompts to move into 2nd and 3rd order consequences (see next step). Listen for when a chain of events is being described, where participants are quickly moving from 1st to 2nd to 3rd order events, and record it accordingly. Then bring participants back to 1st order implications in order to record alternative pathways.
5. Explore second-, third- and fourth-order consequences
6. Discuss the most impactful and surprising outcomes
7. Reflect on and/or evaluate the exercise
Alternatives to drawing a cascade diagram on a writeable wall:
1. Using online mind-mapping tools:
If the workshop will run in a room with a large computer screen, the facilitator (or a notetaker) may prefer to record the conversation through an online mind-mapping tool. Some Horizons analysts prefer mind-mapping software over drawing by hand, finding it more legible, faster to type and easier to modify or move an idea. After the meeting, it is easy to print the result or rework the contents by modifying and collaborating with others, much like a wiki document. It takes a little practice to create nodes, type and move ideas with ease while following a conversation, but it is worth the time for facilitators who expect cascade diagramming to be a recurring part of their work. Horizons often uses Mind42.com (available free), although other mind-mapping tools can likely achieve similar results.
2. Using sticky notes:
In a pinch, with just a large wall surface and a pack of large sticky notes, a cascade diagram can happen anywhere. As with mind-mapping software, sticky notes present the advantage of relocatable nodes. The facilitator can record points on the sticky notes and/or ask participants to record themselves. A disadvantage is that the sticky note configuration is often harder to follow and some participants’ writing may be hard to read. The use of different coloured sticky notes to differentiate threads of thought or distinguish orders of outcomes (e.g. first, second, third order) can help. Participants can also be given a little guidance when asked to write, e.g. a suggested word limit and a model of readable-size text.
Add-ons/ Modifications to the cascade diagram exercise
OPTION A: After developing the initial cascade diagram, vote on the most significant consequences and build priority branches with further implications
This option balances the free-flowing brainstorming style of a cascade diagram exercise with the need to ensure sufficient time is spent on branches of conversation that are of strategic importance. A way to set some priorities (without hindering the brainstorming process) is to develop the cascade diagram over two sessions, with a voting stage in between to establish priorities. After generating the initial cascade diagram in the first session, the facilitator can ask participants to vote on the most significant consequences of the change driver, i.e. the disruptions that may produce further consequences that might not normally be considered. This step can be done at the end of the cascade diagram activity described above and should take 5–10 minutes. The second session would then explore and rebuild only those branches on the cascade diagram that received the most votes. During the time between sessions, the facilitator can pare down the cascade diagram to a more workable version that highlights the branches/consequences that received the most votes.
OPTION B: Vote on the most significant branches to develop as you build the cascade diagram
Another variation is to ask participants to vote as you build the cascade diagram. Once you have a good list of first order consequences, ask participants to choose a consequence to push out further to second order. Ask again, and at each subsequent order, decide which consequence to push out further. This can focus a cascade diagram exercise and save a lot of time, but it may also not generate as much information or allow quite as free a brainstorm.
Building a Foresight Workshop: Complementary Activities to Consider
For facilitators with multiple objectives for a foresight workshop, below is a suggestion of activities that would pair well with the cascade diagram exercise for a change driver.
Before the exercise
- Deliver the Change Driver presentation.
After the exercise
- Once a number of change drivers have been explored through cascade diagrams and participants have a good sense of possible future consequences of a change driver, it may be useful to deliver the Cross-Impact Matrix Exercise, which explores the interaction and relationship between two change drivers.